The Irish Times – ‘The country is extremely anxious’: Kenyans urged to keep calm as they await election result

By Sally Hayden

Kenyans continue to wait to find out who will be their fifth president since independence, as political actors on both sides are criticised for attempting to call the result early. Current vice president William Ruto (55), is up against longtime opposition figure Raila Odinga (77), with independent tallies appearing to show them neck and neck.

A Sunday morning press conference organised in Nairobi by a group of 14 major organisations, associations and trade unions, saw spokespeople appeal to Kenyans to remain calm no matter what the final result is.

The group included Amnesty International Kenya, the Architectural Association of Kenya, the Law Society of Kenya and the Kenya Medical Association, and said they represented more than 100,000 workers including head teachers, dentists and human rights defenders.

“The country is extremely anxious,” said Amnesty Kenya’s executive director Irũngũ Houghton, welcoming journalists at the beginning.

“It’s important for us as key stakeholders, especially the professional associations, to come together at this time,” explained Hussein Khalid, the executive director for Haki Africa, an initiative that works with communities across Kenya. “The situation our country finds itself in calls for the voice of reason to speak up.”

Khalid said they had been disappointed by behaviour they had seen from many politicians. “The chest pumping and the messaging that [they] can’t lose is not in any way helping the situation… Any election has a winner and a loser and we should be prepared to either be the winners or the losers. The messaging must be that this country has to move forward,” he said.

Voting totals from most of the more than 46,000 polling stations in Tuesday’s election were made available online, leading various media organisations, as well as politicians, to attempt their own efforts to calculate the total.

But the final result will come from Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which constitutionally has seven days to deliver a result.

“It’s like pregnancy, you have to wait for the baby to come… the IEBC is like the doctor,” said Mwaura Kabata during Sunday’s press conference, speaking on behalf of the Law Society of Kenya.

Schools nationwide, which were originally due to open on August 11th, and then on August 15th, are now shut until August 18th.

The next Kenyan president has many challenges ahead of them. Like most of the continent, the east African country of roughly 55 million has been experiencing soaring living costs as food and fuel prices rise, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Debt has multiplied during the nine years that incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta has been in power, and now totals about 9 trillion Kenyan shillings (€73.76 billion) – 67 per cent of GDP, according to Reuters News Agency.

Results for other political positions indicate that women have claimed a larger number of seats in the latest election than before. Of Kenya’s incoming governors, at least seven of the 47 elected are women – compared to three who were elected in 2017.

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden

Sally Hayden, a contributor to The Irish Times, reports on Africa